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Nighty Night

Last night I had my first night fly. The weather was absolutely spectacular, clear, not humid and about 75ish(F). Typical Washington DC summer weather, NOT! I prep the plane and was waiting for my instructor to show up, he was out with another student and arrived just before dark. Shortly we get set and at night it sure is different! Even taxiing to the hold area was amusing it was hard to see the turnoffs, those lines on the pavement were a necessity.

After completing the engine run-up we move to the runway and are all set. Off we go into the darkness! It was kind of an odd sensation taking off you can’t really see the end of the runway so that reference point is gone. We go up and do a set of patterns, yes traffic pattern work again. The airport changed there rules a bit so instead of turning to crosswind at 900 ft they want us to be at 1200 ft, someone was apparently complaining about noise (not me really!).  This resulted in a longer upwind leg and by the end of crosswind I was already at the target 1500 ft altitude. It was actually more comfortable in some respects had more time to get comfortable on downwind, trim the plane and all that jazz.

One other interesting effect at night was looking around for other traffic. On such a clear night it was easy to see other planes WAY in the distance and it’s not obvious at first that the planes are in the vicinity or  many many miles away. On a couple of occasions I pointed out traffic and my instructor said they were nowhere near.

Looking out the window NONE of the usual landmark were visible (of course), so I just judged the distances from the runway by eye. Not that difficult. The only somewhat distressing aspect is not seeing the actual ground. There were plenty of lights, it’s not like I’m flying over a corn field but the perception of distance to the ground was definitely different. Turning from base to final looking at the runway all lit up is fun but the last few seconds just before landing is a little freakier then normal. Just takes getting used to it and by the 4th and 5th time round I was greasing the landings. Also at night I like using the VASI (the glide slope indicator lights), that’s a first!


Categories: Lessons, Uncategorized
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